ARB Authorizes Final Phase of Long-Term Children's Health Study
For immediate release
The California Air Resources Board today authorized the next three and one half years of its landmark ten year study to determine how children are affected by lifelong exposure to high air pollution levels.
John Dunlap, Air Resources Board chairman said, "As a 25 year resident of Southern California I have memories of high school sporting events being cancelled because of high ozone levels."
"Now as Chairman of the ARB I am happy to be a part of the world's first research effort to determine the long-term health effects of photochemical smog on children who have to grow up breathing it."
Costs for this portion of the Epidemiologic Investigation to Identify Chronic Health Effects of California Air Pollutants (EPI) study are expected to total as much as $5.2 million. USEPA, South Coast Air Quality Management District and other local air pollution control agencies will contribute about $1.5 million in funds and in-kind services over the course of the project with the ARB funding the remainder of the project.
Currently in its third year, researchers are finalizing the second portion of the three phase effort. During the project's first two phases, a team of University of Southern California researchers have assembled and gathered health data on 3,600 volunteer fourth, eighth and twelfth graders from a dozen communities throughout the state. An additional 1,800 fourth grade students will be recruited during the next year to supplement recent graduates or children who may have moved away from a study area. Each of the four pollutants being studied (ozone, particulate matter, nitrogen dioxide and atmospheric acidity) has been measured at high levels in some of the 12 communities. In addition, several of the communities have clean air to provide a control study group.
The project is beginning its long-term monitoring phase of children who live in areas with traditionally high levels of air pollution and others who live in parts of the state that typically have cleaner air. This type of long-term tracking and monitoring, following some children as long as ten years, represents a change in how health related air pollution studies have been conducted. Previous studies have either focused on adult participants or on acute reactions to air pollution.
During their participation in the study, children will be examined periodically to determine if lifelong exposure to high air pollution levels can lead to incomplete lung development or to changes in lung function that restrict full lung capacity or cause other chronic health effects, such as bronchitis, asthma or emphysema.
In an earlier, preliminary study ARB researchers determined that more than 80 percent of 14 to 25 year old young people autopsied after fatal accidents had some form of lung damage that could have led to pulmonary illnesses later in their lives. Since many of these children were non-smokers and were not exposed to workplace pollution, poor air quality was identified as the likely cause of that damage.
Another early finding of the research has been that California children are twice as likely to suffer from asthma as children in other parts of the country. Researchers have been cautious about attributing that to high smog levels, however, since some of the children participating in the project are from regions of California with healthy air quality.